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File Compression: ZIP vs RAR

File compression, while rather basic in principle, actually depends on a series of complex algorithms, datasets and storage methods in order to compress your files. Not only does this type of compression save hard drive space, but it is also a valid means of organizing, sharing or securing your files. Compressed file archives can be used to store an entire directory, folder or drive, which can later be retrieved in a quick and organized manner.


ZIP is one of the most instantly recognizable file archives throughout the entire computer world. It has been used since the earliest days of the modern Windows system, and the format is fully compatible with Mac computers. In fact, most operating systems of today include built-in ZIP compatibility, whereas RAR archives are typically not available without the use of special software.

However, there is one major drawback associated with ZIP files: the compression rate. Because a ZIP file has a much lower compression rate than RAR, you will definitely notice a larger file size with zipped archives – even when compressing the exact same files on the exact same system.


If ZIP files tend to cater more toward the casual computer user, then RAR files are definitely for the diehard computer techs. The main reason for this is the higher compression rate achieved through the RAR format, which ultimately results in a smaller archive size. It does this without affecting the integrity of the files within the archive, which is especially crucial when dealing with sensitive or mission-critical information.

Another major feature of the RAR format is the ability to split the archive itself into multiple files. This lets you place separate pieces of the archive onto individual drives or discs. The ability and effectiveness of splitting RAR files depends on the specific software you are using.

Finally, nearly any software that is capable of handling RAR archives is capable of creating and opening ZIP archives as well, and this holds true for both Macs and PCs. This is not the case with programs that use only ZIP files.


While the earliest versions of ZIP archives were rather unsecure, vast advances and upgrades have been applied to the encryption algorithms of ZIP files. ZIP files of today use an encryption method that makes these archives just as secure as RAR files. Also, both ZIP and RAR archives can be password protected to limit access to the compressed files inside.

Compression Software

Although the basic framework of ZIP and RAR archives each have their pros and cons, you also have to consider the type of compression software you are using. Each different developer has their own unique caveats and methods of compression, so you will likely receive archives in different sizes, as well as varying levels of security and stability, depending on the software you use. Moreover, many of today's file compression programs give you the option of choosing between ZIP and RAR, so you will be able to choose the one that best suits your file storage needs.


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